My friend Lucille wears only black and gives away
a shirt, a sweater, a short stretch skirt each time she buys
another piece of fabric. Her etiquette
of funeral apparel: ďWear according to your consciousness
of grief,Ē and so I dress my six-month daughter
in pink to match the absence of loss
she feels at her first funeral: a woman we did not know
who had my name, and died the way my father did,
hoping for a heart to make him whole.
The husband, who forgets my name,
says my daughter will break hearts
as she coos and drools on my black dress
that clothes me in tradition if not grief.
Some here wear gray stretch pants,
some white high heels after Labor Day.
I look to see where grief is draped;
my daughter starts to cry. In these stiff pews,
I sway to calm her.
In his gold cope, the priest is speaking
of his baby, who shares the deceasedís name
with me. His eldest daughter, Lucy,
lights the candles white and smiles at my child.
I hold my small one tighter at the prayers
and think I hear my fatherís hopeful voice.
But it is still the priest, reciting
Hopkinís poem to Margaret.
His clean, bald head shines babylike in candlelight
the way, ten years ago, it must have caught the shadows
of cigarettes in New York coffee houses
as he read poems to cope
with what he saw each city day.
It is clean and rural here. My friend,
now far away in Boston wearing black,
grieves her life. She wants a child and home.
My daughter shares her middle name,
her thick, rich hair that curls above a face
that has my fatherís color.
With dry eyes, we travel home and change our clothes,
something appropriate to the weather.
Marjorie Maddox is the Director of Creative Writing and Professor of English at Lock Haven University and has published Perpendicular As I (Sandstone Book Award); Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation (WordTech Editions); Weeknights at the Cathedral (Yellowglen Prize); When the Wood Clacks Out Your Name: Baseball Poems (Redgreene Press); six chapbooks, and over 350 poems, stories, and essays in journals and anthologies. She is the co-editor of Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (PSU Press 2005) and author of two childrenís books from Boyds Mills Press: A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry (2008) and The Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems (2009). Her short story collection, What She Was Saying, was one of three finalists for the Katherine Anne Porter Book Award, and a semifinalist for Leapfrog Pressís book competition, Eastern Washington Universityís Spokane Fiction Book Award, and Louisiana University Pressís Yellow Shoe Book Award. The recipient of numerous awards, Marjorie lives with her husband and two children in Williamsport, PA. She does readings and schools visits around the country. Her website is www.lhup.edu/mmaddoxh/biography.htm.